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On Voting and the Traditions

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Is it a Tradition break that only trusted servants can vote? Our Second Tradition says, “All those who considers themselves a group member are welcome to speak or vote. To exclude some from speaking or voting on decisions for the group denies them effective membership in the group.” (The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous, Second Edition, pp. 100–101). But, the Fourth Tradition says, “The board decided to allow the registration of groups that places specific abstinence or other requirements on officers or lead speakers” and “each group should judge whether the group’s guidelines for attendance, sharing, or voting were suggestions or requirements” (p. 116).

There are no rules or requirements for how voting is done in a group conscience meeting. I have been in group conscience meetings where everyone attending had a voice and a vote. I have been in other group conscience meetings where everyone attending had a voice but only trusted servants (those with specific qualifications) were allowed to vote. And, I have attended group conscience meetings where only trusted servants were allowed a voice or vote.

Service boards may also have differing requirements for group conscience votes, including the Board of Trustees, World Service Business Conference, and regional assemblies.

Traditions Two and Four are excellent resources for determining the guidelines for a group conscience. “Every group makes its own decisions—and mistakes” (p. 114), and they ”learn from their mistakes” (p. 101). The only limitations in Tradition Four are matters affecting OA as a whole and ensuring the group is “free from outside influence” (p. 113).

We may also create “service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve” (Tradition Nine). This means trusted servants must act for the group (and OA as a whole) in certain functions. Tradition Nine also says, “Meetings that are far from perfect in our eyes can still offer us the miracle of recovery” (p. 147).

A member who believes the Traditions are not being honored has a responsibility to speak up. However, if that member continues to feel uncomfortable and is not allowed a voice in making changes, that member is free to join another group.

I also suggest reading the Twelve Concepts of OA Service for further guidance. — Members of the Board of Trustees provide answers to Ask-It Basket questions.

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